Leave no financial information with your accountant...
- and insist that he do all of your work on a disk that you take with you as soon as he is finished. The case below explains why. Bear
UNITED STATES v. ARTHUR YOUNG & CO. ET AL., 104 S. Ct. 1495, 465 U.S. 805 (U.S. 03/21/1984)
 SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
 No. 82-687
 104 S. Ct. 1495, 465 U.S. 805, 79 L. Ed. 2d 826, 52 U.S.L.W. 4355, 1984.SCT.41191 <http://www.versuslaw.com>
 decided: March 21, 1984.
 UNITED STATES
ARTHUR YOUNG & CO. ET AL.
 CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SECOND CIRCUIT.
 Mark I. Levy argued the cause for the United States. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Lee, Assistant Attorney General Archer, Deputy Solicitor General Bator, Stuart A. Smith, Carleton D. Powell, and Kristina E. Harrigan.
 Carl D. Liggio argued the cause for respondent Arthur Young & Co. With him on the brief were John E. Matson and Richard I. Janvey. William Eldred Jackson argued the cause for respondent Amerada Hess Corp. With him on the brief were Russell E. Brooks, John C. Maloney, Jr., and Robert G. Morvillo.*fn*
 Burger, C. J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.
 Author: Burger
[ 465 U.S. Page 807]
 CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.
 We granted certiorari to consider whether tax accrual workpapers prepared by a corporation's independent certified public accountant in the course of regular financial audits are protected from disclosure in response to an Internal Revenue Service summons issued under § 7602 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 (Code), 26 U. S. C. § 7602.
[ 465 U.S. Page 808]
 Respondent Arthur Young & Co. is a firm of certified public accountants. As the independent auditor for respondent Amerada Hess Corp., Young is responsible for reviewing the financial statements prepared by Amerada as required by the federal securities laws.*fn1 In the course of its review of these financial statements, Young verified Amerada's statement of its contingent tax liabilities, and, in so doing, prepared the tax accrual workpapers at issue in this case. Tax accrual workpapers are documents and memoranda relating to Young's evaluation of Amerada's reserves for contingent tax liabilities. Such workpapers sometimes contain information pertaining to Amerada's financial transactions, identify questionable positions Amerada may have taken on its tax returns, and reflect Young's opinions regarding the validity of such positions. See infra, at 810-813.
 In 1975 the Internal Revenue Service began a routine audit to determine Amerada's corporate income tax liability for the tax years 1972 through 1974. When the audit revealed that Amerada had made questionable payments of $7,830 from a "special disbursement account," the IRS instituted a criminal investigation of Amerada's tax returns as well. In that process, pursuant to Code § 7602, 26 U. S. C. § 7602,*fn2 the IRS
[ 465 U.S. Page 809]
issued an administrative summons to Young, which required Young to make available to the IRS all its Amerada files, including its tax accrual workpapers. Amerada instructed Young not to comply with the summons.
 The IRS then commenced this enforcement action against Young in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. See 26 U. S. C. § 7604.*fn3 Amerada intervened, as permitted by 26 U. S. C. § 7609(b)(1).*fn4 The District Court found that Young's tax accrual workpapers were relevant to the IRS investigation within the meaning of § 7602 and refused to recognize an accountant-client privilege that would protect the workpapers.496 F.Supp. 1152, 1156-1157 (1980). Accordingly, the District Court ordered the summons enforced.
 A divided United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part. 677 F.2d 211
[ 465 U.S. Page 810]
(1982). The Court of Appeals majority agreed with the District Court that the tax accrual workpapers were relevant to the IRS investigation of Amerada, but held that the public interest in promoting full disclosure to public accountants, and in turn ensuring the integrity of the securities markets, required protection for the work that such independent auditors perform for publicly owned companies. Drawing upon Hickman v. Taylor,329 U.S. 495 (1947), and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(3), the Court of Appeals fashioned a work-product immunity doctrine for tax accrual workpapers prepared by independent auditors in the course of compliance with the federal securities laws. Because the IRS had not demonstrated a sufficient showing of need to overcome the immunity and was not seeking to prove fraud on Amerada's part, the Court of Appeals refused to enforce the summons insofar as it sought Young's tax accrual workpapers.
 One judge dissented from that portion of the majority opinion creating a work-product immunity for accountants' tax accrual workpapers. The dissent viewed the statutory summons authority, 26 U. S. C. § 7602, as reflecting a congressional decision in favor of the disclosure of such workpapers. The dissent also rejected the policy justifications asserted by the majority for an accountant work-product immunity, reasoning that such protection was not necessary to ensure the integrity of the independent auditor's certification of a corporation's financial statements.
 We granted certiorari, 459 U.S. 1199 (1983). We affirm in part and reverse in part.
 Corporate financial statements are one of the primary sources of information available to guide the decisions of the investing public. In an effort to control the accuracy of the financial data available to investors in the securities markets, various provisions of the federal securities laws require
[ 465 U.S. Page 811]
publicly held corporations to file their financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission.*fn5 Commission regulations stipulate that these financial reports must be audited by an independent certified public accountant in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards.*fn6 By examining the corporation's books and records, the independent auditor determines whether the financial reports of the corporation have been prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles.*fn7 The auditor then issues an opinion as to whether the financial statements, taken as a whole, fairly present the financial position and operations of the corporation for the relevant period.*fn8 See n. 13, infra.
[ 465 U.S. Page 812]
An important aspect of the auditor's function is to evaluate the adequacy and reasonableness of the corporation's reserve account for contingent tax liabilities. This reserve account, known as the tax accrual account, the noncurrent tax account, or the tax pool, represents the amount set aside by the corporation to cover adjustments and additions to the corporation's actual tax liability. Additional corporate tax liability may arise from a wide variety of transactions.*fn9 The presence of a reserve account for such contingent tax liabilities reflects the corporation's awareness of, and preparedness for, the possibility of an assessment of additional taxes.
 The independent auditor draws upon many sources in evaluating the sufficiency of the corporation's tax accrual account. Initially, the corporation's books, records, and tax returns must be analyzed in light of the relevant Code provisions, Treasury Regulations, Revenue Rulings, and case law. The auditor will also obtain and assess the opinions, speculations, and projections of management with regard to unclear, aggressive, or questionable tax positions that may have been taken on prior tax returns. In exploring the tax consequences of certain transactions, the auditor often engages in a "worst-case" analysis in order to ensure that the tax accrual account accurately reflects the full extent of the corporation's exposure to additional tax liability. From this conglomeration of data, the auditor is able to estimate the potential cost of each particular contingency, as well as the probability that the additional liability may arise.
 The auditor's tax accrual workpapers record this process of examination and analysis. Such workpapers may document the auditor's interviews with corporate personnel, judgments on questions of potential tax liability, and suggestions for alternative
[ 465 U.S. Page 813]
treatments of certain transactions for tax purposes. Tax accrual workpapers also contain an overall evaluation of the sufficiency of the corporation's reserve for contingent tax liabilities, including an item-by-item analysis of the corporation's potential exposure to additional liability. In short, tax accrual workpapers pinpoint the "soft spots" on a corporation's tax return by highlighting those areas in which the corporate taxpayer has taken a position that may, at some later date, require the payment of additional taxes.
 In seeking access to Young's tax accrual workpapers, the IRS exercised the summons power conferred by Code § 7602, 26 U. S. C. § 7602, which authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to summon and "examine any books, papers, records, or other data which may be relevant or material" to a particular tax inquiry.*fn10 The District Court and the Court of Appeals determined that the tax accrual workpapers at issue in this case satisfied the relevance requirement of § 7602, because they "might have thrown light upon" the correctness of Amerada's tax return.*fn11 Because the relevance
[ 465 U.S. Page 814]
of tax accrual workpapers is a logical predicate to the question whether such workpapers should be protected by some form of work-product immunity, we turn first to an evaluation of the relevance issue.*fn12 We agree that such workpapers are relevant within the meaning of § 7602.
 As the language of § 7602 clearly indicates, an IRS summons is not to be judged by the relevance standards used in deciding whether to admit evidence in federal court. Cf. Fed. Rule Evid. 401. The language "may be" reflects Congress' express intention to allow the IRS to obtain items of even potential relevance to an ongoing investigation, without reference to its admissibility. The purpose of Congress is obvious: the Service can hardly be expected to know whether such data will in fact be relevant until they are procured and scrutinized. As a tool of discovery, the § 7602 summons is critical to the investigative and enforcement functions of the IRS, see United States v. Powell, 379 U.S. 48, 57 (1964); the Service therefore should not be required to establish that the documents it seeks are actually relevant in any technical, evidentiary sense.
[ 465 U.S. Page 815]
That tax accrual workpapers are not actually used in the preparation of tax returns by the taxpayer or its own accountants does not bar a finding of relevance within the meaning of § 7602. The filing of a corporate tax return entails much more than filling in the blanks on an IRS form in accordance with undisputed tax principles; more likely than not, the return is a composite interpretation of corporate transactions made by corporate officers in the light most favorable to the taxpayer. It is the responsibility of the IRS to determine whether the corporate taxpayer in completing its return has stretched a particular tax concept beyond what is allowed. Records that illuminate any aspect of the return -- such as the tax accrual workpapers at issue in this case -- are therefore highly relevant to legitimate IRS inquiry. The Court of Appeals acknowledged this: "It is difficult to say that the assessment by the independent auditor of the correctness of positions taken by the taxpayer in his return would not throw 'light upon' the correctness of the return."677 F.2d, at 219. We accordingly affirm the Court of Appeals' holding that Young's tax accrual workpapers are relevant to the IRS investigation of Amerada's tax liability.
 We now turn to consider whether tax accrual workpapers prepared by an independent auditor in the course of a routine review of corporate financial statements should be protected by some form of work-product immunity from disclosure under § 7602. Based upon its evaluation of the competing policies of the federal tax and securities laws, the Court of Appeals found it necessary to create a so-called privilege for the independent auditor's workpapers.
 Our complex and comprehensive system of federal taxation, relying as it does upon self-assessment and reporting, demands that all taxpayers be forthright in the disclosure of relevant information to the taxing authorities. Without such
[ 465 U.S. Page 816]
disclosure, and the concomitant power of the Government to compel disclosure, our national tax burden would not be fairly and equitably distributed. In order to encourage effective tax investigations, Congress has endowed the IRS with expansive information-gathering authority; § 7602 is the centerpiece of that congressional design. As we noted in United States v. Bisceglia,420 U.S. 141, 146 (1975):
 "The purpose of [§ 7602] is not to accuse, but to inquire. Although such investigations unquestionably involve some invasion of privacy, they are essential to our self-reporting system, and the alternatives could well involve far less agreeable invasions of house, business, and records."
 Similarly, we noted in United States v. Euge, 444 U.S. 707, 711 (1980):
 "[This] Court has consistently construed congressional intent to require that if the summons authority claimed is necessary for the effective performance of congressionally imposed responsibilities to enforce the tax Code, that authority should be upheld absent express statutory prohibition or substantial countervailing policies."
 While § 7602 is "subject to the traditional privileges and limitations," id., at 714, any other restrictions upon the IRS summons power should be avoided "absent unambiguous directions from Congress." United States v. Bisceglia, supra, at 150. We are unable to discern the sort of "unambiguous directions from Congress" that would justify a judicially created work-product immunity for tax accrual workpapers summoned under § 7602. Indeed, the very language of § 7602 reflects precisely the opposite: a congressional policy choice in favor of disclosure of all information relevant to a legitimate IRS inquiry. In light of this explicit statement by the Legislative Branch, courts should be chary in recognizing exceptions to the broad summons authority of the IRS or in fashioning new privileges that would curtail disclosure under
[ 465 U.S. Page 817]
§ 7602. Cf. Milwaukee v. Illinois, 451 U.S. 304, 315 (1981). If the broad latitude granted to the IRS by § 7602 is to be circumscribed, that is a choice for Congress, and not this Court, to make. See United States v. Euge,444 U.S., at 712.
 The Court of Appeals nevertheless concluded that "substantial countervailing policies," id., at 711, required the fashioning of a work-product immunity for an independent auditor's tax accrual workpapers. To the extent that the Court of Appeals, in its concern for the "chilling effect" of the disclosure of tax accrual workpapers, sought to facilitate communication between independent auditors and their clients, its remedy more closely resembles a testimonial accountant-client privilege than a work-product immunity for accountants' workpapers. But as this Court stated in Couch v. United States,409 U.S. 322, 335 (1973), "no confidential accountant-client privilege exists under federal law, and no state-created privilege has been recognized in federal cases." In light of Couch, the Court of Appeals' effort to foster candid communication between accountant and client by creating a self-styled work-product privilege was misplaced, and conflicts with what we see as the clear intent of Congress.
 Nor do we find persuasive the argument that a work-product immunity for accountants' tax accrual workpapers is a fitting analogue to the attorney work-product doctrine established in Hickman v. Taylor,329 U.S. 495 (1947). The Hickman work-product doctrine was founded upon the private attorney's role as the client's confidential adviser and advocate, a loyal representative whose duty it is to present the client's case in the most favorable possible light. An independent certified public accountant performs a different role. By certifying the public reports that collectively depict a corporation's financial status, the independent auditor assumes a public responsibility transcending any employment relationship with the client. The independent public accountant
[ 465 U.S. Page 818]
performing this special function owes ultimate allegiance to the corporation's creditors and stockholders, as well as to the investing public. This "public watchdog" function demands that the accountant maintain total independence from the client at all times and requires complete fidelity to the public trust. To insulate from disclosure a certified public accountant's interpretations of the client's financial statements would be to ignore the significance of the accountant's role as a disinterested analyst charged with public obligations.
 We cannot accept the view that the integrity of the securities markets will suffer absent some protection for accountants' tax accrual workpapers. The Court of Appeals apparently feared that, were the IRS to have access to tax accrual workpapers, a corporation might be tempted to withhold from its auditor certain information relevant and material to a proper evaluation of its financial statements. But the independent certified public accountant cannot be content with the corporation's representations that its tax accrual reserves are adequate; the auditor is ethically and professionally obligated to ascertain for himself as far as possible whether the corporation's contingent tax liabilities have been accurately stated. If the auditor were convinced that the scope of the examination had been limited by management's reluctance to disclose matters relating to the tax accrual reserves, the auditor would be unable to issue an unqualified opinion as to the accuracy of the corporation's financial statements. Instead, the auditor would be required to issue a qualified opinion, an adverse opinion, or a disclaimer of opinion, thereby notifying the investing public of possible potential problems inherent in the corporation's financial reports.*fn13
[ 465 U.S. Page 819]
Responsible corporate management would not risk a qualified evaluation of a corporate taxpayer's financial posture to afford cover for questionable positions reflected in a prior tax return.*fn14 Thus, the independent auditor's obligation to serve the public interest assures that the integrity of the securities markets will be preserved, without the need for a work-product immunity for accountants' tax accrual workpapers.*fn15
[ 465 U.S. Page 820]
We also reject respondents' position that fundamental fairness precludes IRS access to accountants' tax accrual workpapers. Respondents urge that the enforcement of an IRS summons for accountants' tax accrual workpapers permits the Government to probe the thought processes of its taxpayer citizens, thereby giving the IRS an unfair advantage in negotiating and litigating tax controversies. But if the SEC itself, or a private plaintiff in securities litigation, sought to obtain the tax accrual workpapers at issue in this case, they would surely be entitled to do so.*fn16 In light of the broad congressional command of § 7602, no sound reason exists for conferring lesser authority upon the IRS than upon a private litigant suing with regard to transactions concerning which the public has no interest.
 Congress has granted to the IRS "broad latitude to adopt enforcement techniques helpful in the performance of [its] tax collection and assessment responsibilities." United States v. Euge,444 U.S., at 716, n. 9. Recognizing the intrusiveness of demands for the production of tax accrual workpapers, the IRS has demonstrated administrative sensitivity to the concerns expressed by the accounting profession by tightening its internal requirements for the issuance of such summonses.
[ 465 U.S. Page 821]
See Internal Revenue Manual § 4024.4 (CCH 1981).*fn17 Although these IRS guidelines were not applicable during the years at issue in this case, their promulgation further refutes respondents' fairness argument and reflects an administrative flexibility that reinforces our decision not to reduce irrevocably the § 7602 summons power.
 Beyond question it is desirable and in the public interest to encourage full disclosures by corporate clients to their independent accountants; if it is necessary to balance competing interests, however, the need of the Government for full disclosure of all information relevant to tax liability must also weigh in that balance. This kind of policy choice is best left to the Legislative Branch. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed in part and reversed in part, and the case is remanded for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
 It is so ordered.
 677 F.2d 211, affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded.
 Counsel FOOTNOTES
 * E. Barrett Prettyman, Jr., Arnold C. Johnson, Walter A. Smith, Jr., William A. Wise, and Walter P. Zivley filed a brief for El Paso Co. as amicus curiae urging reversal.
 Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants by Kenneth J. Bialkin and Louis A. Craco ; for Arthur Andersen & Co. et al. by Eldon Olson, Victor M. Earle III, Donald Dreyfus, Harris J. Amhowitz, and Kenneth H. Lang ; for the Committee on Corporate Law Departments of the Association of the Bar of the City of New York by David Lasky ; and for the Tax Executives Institute, Inc., by Timothy J. McCormally.
 Stephen A. Bokat filed a brief for the Chamber of Commerce of the United States as amicus curiae.
 *fn1 See, e. g., Securities Exchange Act of 1934, §§ 12(b)(1)(J)-(L), 48 Stat. 892, as redesignated, 78 Stat. 565, 15 U. S. C. §§ 78 l (b)(1)(J)-(L); Regulation S-X, 17 CFR § 210 et seq. (1983). See also n. 5, infra.
 *fn2 Section 7602 of the Code, 26 U. S. C. § 7602, provides as follows:
"For the purpose of ascertaining the correctness of any return, making a return where none has been made, determining the liability of any person for any internal revenue tax or the liability at law or in equity of any transferee or fiduciary of any person in respect of any internal revenue tax, or collecting any such liability, the Secretary is authorized -- "(1) To examine any books, papers, records, or other data which may be relevant or material to such inquiry; "(2) To summon the person liable for tax or required to perform the act, or any officer or employee of such person, or any person having possession, custody, or care of books of account containing entries relating to the business of the person liable for tax or required to perform the act, or any other person the Secretary may deem proper, to appear before the Secretary at a time and place named in the summons and to produce such books, papers, records, or other data, and to give such testimony, under oath, as may be relevant or material to such inquiry; and "(3) To take such testimony of the person concerned, under oath, as may be relevant or material to such inquiry."
 *fn3 Section 7604 of the Code, 26 U. S. C. § 7604, provides:
"If any person is summoned under the internal revenue laws to appear, to testify, or to produce books, papers, records, or other data, the United States district court for the district in which such person resides or is found shall have jurisdiction by appropriate process to compel such attendance, testimony, or production of books, papers, records, or other data."
 *fn4 The IRS summons served upon Young sought the production of records concerning the business transactions and affairs of Young's client, Amerada. Accordingly, under Code § 7609(a)(1), 26 U. S. C. § 7609(a)(1), Amerada was entitled to notice of the IRS summons. Section 7609(b)(1) provides that "any person who is entitled to notice of a summons under subsection (a) shall have the right to intervene in any proceeding with respect to the enforcement of such summons under section 7604."
 *fn5 See Securities Act of 1933, Schedule A (25)-(27), 48 Stat. 88, 15 U. S. C. § 77aa (filing of audited financial statement prior to registration of new stock issue); Securities Exchange Act of 1934, §§ 12(b)(1)(J)-(L), 48 Stat. 892, as redesignated, 78 Stat. 565, 15 U. S. C. §§ 78 l (b)(1)(J)-(L) (filing of audited financial statement prior to listing securities on an exchange); Securities Exchange Act of 1934, §§ 13(a)(2), 13(b), 48 Stat. 894, as amended, 15 U. S. C. §§ 78m(a)(2), 78m(b); 17 CFR §§ 249.310, 249.460 (1983) (filing of annual reports); Securities Exchange Act of 1934, § 14, 48 Stat. 895, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 78n; Schedule 14A, Item 15, 17 CFR § 240.14a-101 (1983) (filing of audited financial statement in connection with proxy and information statements).
 *fn6 Regulation S-X, 17 CFR § 210 et seq. (1983), prescribes the qualifications of accountants and the contents of the accountants' reports that must be submitted with corporate financial statements. In particular, 17 CFR § 210.1-02(d) (1983) requires that the financial statements of a public corporation must be audited by an accountant "in accordance with generally accepted auditing standards." "Generally accepted auditing standards" are promulgated by a committee of the public accounting profession's national organization, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). See 1 AICPA Professional Standards (CCH) § 150.02 (1972).
 *fn7 See 1 AICPA, Statement on Auditing Standards § 110.01 (1972). Promulgated by the accounting profession's Financial Accounting Standards Board, "generally accepted accounting principles" are the conventions, rules, and procedures that define accepted accounting practices. See W. Meigs, E. Larsen, & R. Meigs, Principles of Auditing 25-26 (5th ed. 1973); H. Stettler, Auditing Principles 12-16 (5th ed. 1982).
 *fn8 See 1 AICPA Professional Standards (CCH) § 509 (1974).
 *fn9 For example, the characterization of the proceeds of a sale as capital gain instead of ordinary income, the claiming of an investment tax credit, and the attribution of a transaction to a future tax year are decisions requiring judgment calls in gray areas of the Code, any one of which might result in a recomputation of the corporation's outstanding tax liability.
 *fn10 In United States v. Powell, 379 U.S. 48 (1964), the Court refused to impose a probable-cause requirement in connection with the enforcement of an IRS summons under § 7602. Instead, the Court held that the IRS need show only "that the investigation will be conducted pursuant to a legitimate purpose, that the inquiry may be relevant to the purpose, that the information sought is not already within the Commissioner's possession, and that the administrative steps required by the Code have been followed . . . ." Id., at 57-58 (emphasis added).
 *fn11 The relevance standard employed by the Second Circuit -- whether the documents at issue "might have thrown light upon the correctness of the return" -- appears to be widely accepted among the Courts of Appeals. See, e. g., United States v. Wyatt,637 F.2d 293, 300 (CA5 1981); United States v. Turner, 480 F.2d 272, 279 (CA7 1973); United States v. Ryan, 455 F.2d 728, 733 (CA9 1972); United States v. Egenberg, 443 F.2d 512, 515-516 (CA3 1971); Foster v. United States, 265 F.2d 183, 187 (CA2), cert. denied, 360 U.S. 912 (1959). In United States v. Harrington, 388 F.2d 520, 524 (1968), the Second Circuit amplified this test by stating that "the 'might' in the articulated standard, 'might throw light upon the correctness of the return,' is . . . an indication of a realistic expectation rather than an idle hope that something may be discovered." But in United States v. Coopers & Lybrand,550 F.2d 615 (1977), the Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that tax accrual workpapers not prepared in connection with the filing of a corporate tax return were not relevant within the meaning of § 7602.
 *fn12 The petition for certiorari did not question the relevancy of the tax accrual workpapers, and respondents have not filed a cross-petition raising the issue. Respondents have, however, argued before this Court that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that Young's tax accrual workpapers were relevant to the IRS investigation of Amerada within the meaning of § 7602. Respondents were clearly entitled to do so, for our precedents establish that a prevailing party may urge any ground in support of the judgment, whether or not that ground was relied upon or even considered by the court below. See, e. g., United States v. New York Telephone Co.,434 U.S. 159, 166, n. 8 (1977); Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 475-476, n. 6 (1970).
 *fn13 An unqualified opinion, the most favorable report an auditor may give, represents the auditor's finding that the company's financial statements fairly present the financial position of the company, the results of its operations, and the changes in its financial position for the period under audit, in conformity with consistently applied generally accepted accounting principles. See 1 AICPA, Statement on Auditing Standards §§ 510, 511.01 (1973). Alternatively, the auditor may give a qualified opinion, which states that the financial statements are fairly presented except for, or subject to, a departure from generally accepted accounting principles, a change in accounting principles, or a material uncertainty. Id., § 512. An adverse opinion is a reflection of the auditor's determination that the corporation's financial statements do not fairly present the financial position, results of operations, or changes in financial position of the company in conformity with generally accepted accounting principles; an adverse opinion is issued when the auditor determines that the corporation has materially misstated certain items on its financial statements. Id., § 513. Finally, a disclaimer of opinion expresses the auditor's inability to draw a conclusion as to the accuracy of the corporate financial records. A disclaimer of opinion is generally issued when the auditor lacks sufficient information about the financial records to issue an overall opinion. Id., § 514. See generally A. Arens & J. Loebbecke, Auditing: An Integrated Approach 643-660 (1976).
 *fn14 The inclusion in an audited financial statement of anything less than an unqualified opinion could send signals to stockholders, creditors, potential investors, and others that the independent auditor has been unable to give the corporation an unqualified bill of financial health. Such a public auditor's opinion could well have serious consequences for the corporation and its shareholders.
 *fn15 Indeed, rather than protecting the investing public by ensuring the accuracy of corporate financial records, insulation of tax accrual workpapers from disclosure might well undermine the public's confidence in the independent auditing process. The SEC requires the filing of audited financial statements in order to obviate the fear of loss from reliance on inaccurate information, thereby encouraging public investment in the Nation's industries. It is therefore not enough that financial statements be accurate; the public must also perceive them as being accurate. Public faith in the reliability of a corporation's financial statements depends upon the public perception of the outside auditor as an independent professional. Endowing the workpapers of an independent auditor with a work-product immunity would destroy the appearance of auditor's independence by creating the impression that the auditor is an advocate for the client. If investors were to view the auditor as an advocate for the corporate client, the value of the audit function itself might well be lost. See generally Arens & Loebbecke, supra, at 55-58.
 *fn16 See, e. g., Securities Act of 1933, § 19, 48 Stat. 85, 15 U. S. C. § 77s(b) (for purposes of all "necessary and proper" investigations, SEC is empowered to "require the production of any books, papers, or other documents which the Commission deems relevant or material to the inquiry"); Securities Exchange Act of 1934, § 21, 48 Stat. 899, 15 U. S. C. § 78u(b) (same); Fed. Rule Civ. Proc. 26(b)(1) (parties may obtain discovery of "any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action").
 *fn17 The new IRS guidelines provide that access may be had to accountants' tax accrual workpapers only in "unusual circumstances" and only as a "collateral source for factual data." The guidelines require the prior written approval of the Chief of the Examination Division of the IRS before an examining agent may request tax accrual workpapers; in addition, they state that the examiner should first take all reasonable means to secure the information from the corporation itself before issuing a summons to the independent auditor.
© 1998 VersusLaw Inc.
- Re: Leave no financial information with your accountant.
I totally agree with your warning. I provide my accountant no more than the
figures he needs to fill in the forms.
One way to secure an "accountant-client" privilege is to hire an attorney to
hire the accountant.
Moderator/Bear: Using attorney-client privilege to protect your papers is discussed with approval in the US Supreme Court case below starting at paragraph 29. At paragraph 32 is a discussion about the government respecting your right not to force you to give them "papers" that might incriminate you.
FISHER ET AL. v. UNITED STATES ET AL., 96 S. Ct. 1569, 425 U.S. 391 (U.S. 04/21/1976)
Fisher v. United States, 1976.SCT.41365 <http://www.versuslaw.com> ¶ ; 425 U.S. 391 (1976).
 SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
 No. 74-18
 96 S. Ct. 1569, 425 U.S. 391, 48 L. Ed. 2d 39, 1976.SCT.41365 <http://www.versuslaw.com>
 *fn*: April 21, 1976.
 FISHER ET AL
UNITED STATES ET AL.
 CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT
 Richard L. Bazelon argued the cause for petitioners in No. 74-18. With him on the brief was Solomon Fisher. Deputy Solicitor General Wallace argued the cause for petitioners in No. 74-611 and respondents in No. 74-18. With him on the briefs were Solicitor General Bork, Assistant Attorney General Crampton, Stuart A. Smith and Robert E. Lindsay. Robert E. Goodfriend argued the cause for respondents in No. 74-611. With him on the brief were Edward A. Copley and Cyril D. Kasmir.*fn**
 Burger, Brennan, Stewart, Marshall, Blackmun, Powell, Rehnquist; Stevens took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
 Author: White
[ 425 U.S. Page 393]
 MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
 In these two cases we are called upon to decide whether a summons directing an attorney to produce documents delivered to him by his client in connection with the attorney-client relationship is enforceable over claims that the documents were constitutionally immune from summons in the hands of the client and retained that immunity in the hands of the attorney.
 In each case, an Internal Revenue agent visited the taxpayer or taxpayers*fn1 and interviewed them in connection
[ 425 U.S. Page 394]
with an investigation of possible civil or criminal liability under the federal income tax laws. Shortly after the interviews - one day later in No. 74-611 and a week or two later in No. 74-18 - the taxpayers obtained from their respective accountants certain documents relating to the preparation by the accountants of their tax returns. Shortly after obtaining the documents - later the same day in No. 74-611 and a few weeks later in No. 74-18 - the taxpayers transferred the documents to their lawyers - respondent Kasmir and petitioner Fisher, respectively - each of whom was retained to assist the taxpayer in connection with the investigation. Upon learning of the whereabouts of the documents, the Internal Revenue Service served summonses on the attorneys directing them to produce documents listed therein. In No. 74-611, the documents were described as "the following records of Tannebaum Bindler & Lewis [the accounting firm]. S
 " 1. Accountant's work papers pertaining to Dr. E. J. Mason's books and records of 1969, 1970 and 1971. [*fn2
 "2. Retained copies of E. J. Mason's income tax returns for 1969, 1970 and 1971.
 "3. Retained copies of reports and other correspondence between Tannebaum Bindler & Lewis and Dr. E. J. Mason during 1969, 1970 and 1971."I
 In No. 74-18, the documents demanded were analyses by the accountant of the taxpayers' income and expenses which had been copied by the accountant from the taxpayers' canceled checks and deposit receipts.*fn3 In No.
[ 425 U.S. Page 39574]
-611, a summons was also served on the accountant directing him to appear and testify concerning the documents to be produced by the lawyer. In each case, the lawyer declined to comply with the summons directing production of the documents, and enforcement actions were commenced by the Government under 26 U.S.C. §§ 7402 (b) and 7604 (a). In No. 74-611, the attorney raised in defense of the enforcement action the taxpayer's accountant-client privilege, his attorney-client privilege, and his Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. In No. 74-18, the attorney claimed that enforcement would involve compulsory self-incrimination of the taxpayers in violation of their Fifth Amendment privilege, would involve a seizure of the papers without necessary compliance with the Fourth Amendment, and would violate the taxpayers' right to communicate in confidence with their attorney. In No. 74-18 the taxpayers intervened and made similar claims.
 In each case the summons was ordered enforced by the District Court and its order was stayed pending appeal. In No. 74-18, 500 F.2d 683 (CA3 1974), petitioners' appeal raised, in terms, only their Fifth Amendment claim, but they argued in connection with that claim that enforcement of the summons would involve a violation of the taxpayers' reasonable expectation of privacy and particularly so in light of the confidential relationship of attorney to client. The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit after reargument en banc affirmed the enforcement order, holding that the taxpayers had never acquired a possessory interest in the documents and that the papers were not immune in the hands of the attorney. In No. 74-611, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the enforcement order,499 F.2d 444 (1974). The court reasoned that by virtue of the Fifth Amendment the documents would have been privileged
[ 425 U.S. Page 396]
from production pursuant to summons directed to the taxpayer had he retained possession and, in light of the confidential nature of the attorney-client relationship, the taxpayer retained, after the transfer to his attorney, "a legitimate expectation of privacy with regard to the materials he placed in his attorney's custody, that he retained constructive possession of the evidence, and thus... retained Fifth Amendment protection."*fn4 Id., at 453. We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict created. 420 U.S. 906 (1975). Because in our view the documents were not privileged either in the hands of the lawyers or of their clients, we affirm the judgment of the Third Circuit in No. 74-18 and reverse the judgment of the Fifth Circuit in No. 74-611.
 All of the parties in these cases and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit have concurred in the proposition that if the Fifth Amendment would have excused a taxpayer from turning over the accountant's papers had he possessed them, the attorney to whom they are delivered for the purpose of obtaining legal advice should also be immune from subpoena. Although we agree with this proposition for the reasons set forth in Part III, infra, we are convinced that, under our decision in Couch v. United States,409 U.S. 322 (1973), it is not the taxpayer's Fifth Amendment privilege that would excuse the attorney from production.
 The relevant part of that Amendment provides: S
 "No person... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." (Emphasis added.)I
[ 425 U.S. Page 397]
The taxpayer's privilege under this Amendment is not violated by enforcement of the summonses involved in these cases because enforcement against a taxpayer's lawyer would not "compel" the taxpayer to do anything - and certainly would not compel him to be a "witness" against himself. The Court has held repeatedly that the Fifth Amendment is limited to prohibiting the use of "physical or moral compulsion" exerted on the person asserting the privilege, Perlman v. United States,247 U.S. 7, 15 (1918); Johnson v. United States, 228 U.S. 457, 458 (1913); Couch v. United States, supra, at 328, 336. See also Holt v. United States, 218 U.S. 245, 252-253 (1910); United States v. Dionisio, 410 U.S. 1 (1973); Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 765 (1966); Burdeau v. McDowell, 256 U.S. 465, 476 (1921); California Bankers Assn. v. Shultz, 416 U.S. 21, 55 (1974). In Couch v. United States, supra, we recently ruled that the Fifth Amendment rights of a taxpayer were not violated by the enforcement of a documentary summons directed to her accountant and requiring production of the taxpayer's own records in the possession of the accountant. We did so on the ground that in such a case "the ingredient of personal compulsion against an accused is lacking."409 U.S., at 329.
 Here, the taxpayers are compelled to do no more than was the taxpayer in Couch. The taxpayers' Fifth Amendment privilege is therefore not violated by enforcement of the summonses directed toward their attorneys. This is true whether or not the Amendment would have barred a subpoena directing the taxpayer to produce the documents while they were in his hands.
 The fact that the attorneys are agents of the taxpayers does not change this result. Couch held as much, since the accountant there was also the taxpayer's agent, and in this respect reflected a long standing view. In
[ 425 U.S. Page 398]
Hale v. Henkel, 201 U.S. 43, 69-70 (1906), the Court said that the privilege "was never intended to permit [a person] to plead the fact that some third person might be incriminated by his testimony, even though he were the agent of such person.... [T]he Amendment is limited to a person who shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." (Emphasis in original.) "It is extortion of information from the accused himself that offends our sense of justice." Couch v. United States, supra, at 328. Agent or no, the lawyer is not the taxpayer. The taxpayer is the "accused," and nothing is being extorted from him.
 Nor is this one of those situations, which Couch suggested might exist, where constructive possession is so clear or relinquishment of possession so temporary and insignificant as to leave the personal compulsion upon the taxpayer substantially intact.409 U.S., at 333. In this respect we see no difference between the delivery to the attorneys in these cases and delivery to the accountant in the Couch case. As was true in Couch, the documents sought were obtainable without personal compulsion on the accused.
 Respondents in No. 74-611 and petitioners in No. 74-18 argue, and the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit apparently agreed, that if the summons was enforced, the taxpayers' Fifth Amendment privilege would be, but should not be, lost solely because they gave their documents to their lawyers in order to obtain legal advice. But this misconceives the nature of the constitutional privilege. The Amendment protects a person from being compelled to be a witness against himself. Here, the taxpayers retained any privilege they ever had not to be compelled to testify against themselves and not to be compelled themselves to produce private papers in their possession. This personal privilege was in no way decreased by the transfer. It is simply that by
[ 425 U.S. Page 399]
reason of the transfer of the documents to the attorneys, those papers may be subpoenaed without compulsion on the taxpayer. The protection of the Fifth Amendment is therefore not available. "A party is privileged from producing evidence but not from its production." Johnson v. United States, supra, at 458.
 The Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit suggested that because legally and ethically the attorney was required to respect the confidences of his client, the latter had a reasonable expectation of privacy for the records in the hands of the attorney and therefore did not forfeit his Fifth Amendment privilege with respect to the records by transferring them in order to obtain legal advice. It is true that the Court has often stated that one of the several purposes served by the constitutional privilege against compelled testimonial self-incrimination is that of protecting personal privacy. See, e.g., Murphy v. Waterfront Comm'n,378 U.S. 52, 55 (1964); Couch v. United States, supra, at 332, 335-336; Tehan v. United States ex rel. Shott, 382 U.S. 406, 416 (1966); Davis v. United States, 328 U.S. 582, 587 (1946). But the Court has never suggested that every invasion of privacy violates the privilege. Within the limits imposed by the language of the Fifth Amendment, which we necessarily observe, the privilege truly serves privacy interests; but the Court has never on any ground, personal privacy included, applied the Fifth Amendment to prevent the otherwise proper acquisition or use of evidence which, in the Court's view, did not involve compelled testimonial self-incrimination of some sort.*fn5
[ 425 U.S. Page 400]
The proposition that the Fifth Amendment protects private information obtained without compelling self-incriminating testimony is contrary to the clear statements of this Court that under appropriate safeguards private incriminating statements of an accused may be overheard and used in evidence, if they are not compelled at the time they were uttered, Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 354 (1967); OsBorn v. United States, 385 U.S. 323, 329-330 (1966); and Berger v. New York, 388 U.S. 41, 57 (1967); cf. Hoffa v. United States, 385 U.S. 293, 304 (1966); and that disclosure of private information may be compelled if immunity removes the risk of incrimination. Kastigar v. United States,406 U.S. 441 (1972). If the Fifth Amendment protected generally against the obtaining of private information from a man's mouth or pen or house, its protections would presumably not be lifted by probable cause and a warrant or by immunity. The privacy invasion is not mitigated by immunity; and the Fifth Amendment's strictures, unlike the Fourth's, are not removed by showing reasonableness. The Framers addressed the subject of personal privacy directly in the Fourth Amendment. They struck a balance so that when the State's reason to believe incriminating evidence will be found becomes sufficiently great, the invasion of privacy becomes justified and a warrant to search and seize will issue. They did not seek in still another Amendment - the Fifth - to achieve a general protection of privacy but to deal with the more specific issue of compelled self-incrimination.
[ 425 U.S. Page 401]
We cannot cut the Fifth Amendment completely loose from the moorings of its language, and make it serve as a general protector of privacy - a word not mentioned in its text and a concept directly addressed in the Fourth Amendment. We adhere to the view that the Fifth Amendment protects against "compelled self-incrimination, not [the disclosure of] private information." United States v. Nobles,422 U.S. 225, 233 n. 7 (1975).
 Insofar as private information not obtained through compelled self-incriminating testimony is legally protected, its protection stems from other sources*fn6 - the Fourth Amendment's protection against seizures without warrant or probable cause and against subpoenas which suffer from "too much indefiniteness or breadth in the things required to be 'particularly described,'" Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling,327 U.S. 186, 208 (1946); In re Horowitz, 482 F.2d 72, 75-80 (CA2 1973) (Friendly, J.); the First Amendment, see NAACP v. Alabama, 357 U.S. 449, 462 (1958); or evidentiary privileges such as the attorney-client privilege. *fn7
[ 425 U.S. Page 402]
 Our above holding is that compelled production of documents from an attorney does not implicate whatever Fifth Amendment privilege the taxpayer might have enjoyed from being compelled to produce them himself. The taxpayers in these cases, however, have from the outset consistently urged that they should not be forced to expose otherwise protected documents to summons simply because they have sought legal advice and turned the papers over to their attorneys. The Government appears to agree unqualifiedly. The difficulty is that the taxpayers have erroneously relied on the Fifth Amendment without urging the attorney-client privilege in so many words. They have nevertheless invoked the relevant body of law and policies that govern the attorney-client privilege. In this posture of the case, we feel obliged to inquire whether the attorney-client privilege applies to documents in the hands of an attorney which would have been privileged in the hands of the client by reason of the Fifth Amendment.*fn8
[ 425 U.S. Page 403]
Confidential disclosures by a client to an attorney made in order to obtain legal assistance are privileged. 8 J. Wigmore, Evidence § 2292 (McNaughton rev. 1961) (hereinafter Wigmore); McCormick, § 87, p. 175, (hereinafter McCormick). The purpose of the privilege is to encourage clients to make full disclosure to their attorneys. 8 Wigmore § 2291, and § 2306, p. 590; McCormick § 87, p. 175, § 92, p. 192; Baird v. Koerner,279 F.2d 623 (CA9 1960); Modern Woodmen of America v. Watkins, 132 F.2d 352 (CA5 1942); Prichard v. United States, 181 F.2d 326 (CA6), aff'd per curiam, 339 U.S. 974 (1950); Schwimmer v. United States, 232 F.2d 855 (CA8 1956); United States v. Goldfarb, 328 F.2d 280 (CA6 1964). As a practical matter, if the client knows that damaging information could more readily be obtained from the attorney following disclosure than from himself in the absence of disclosure, the client would be reluctant to confide in his lawyer and it would be difficult to obtain fully informed legal advice. However, since the privilege has the effect of withholding relevant information from the factfinder, it applies only where necessary to achieve its purpose. Accordingly it protects only those disclosures - necessary to obtain informed legal advice - which might not have been made absent the privilege. In re Horowitz, supra, at 81 (Friendly, J.); United States v. Goldfarb, supra; 8 Wigmore § 2291, p. 554; McCormick § 89, p. 185. This Court and the lower courts have thus uniformly held that pre-existing documents which could have been obtained by court process from the client when he was in possession may also be obtained from the attorney by similar process following transfer by client in order
[ 425 U.S. Page 404]
to obtain more informed legal advice. Grant v. United States, 227 U.S. 74, 79-80 (1913); 8 Wigmore § 2307, and cases there cited; McCormick § 90, p. 185; Falsone v. United States, 205 F.2d 734 (CA5 1953); Sovereign Camp, W. O. W. v. Reed, 208 Ala. 457, 94 So. 910 (1922); Andrews v. Mississippi R. Co., 14 Ind. 169, 98 N.E. 49 (1860); Palatini v. Sarian, 15 N.J. Super. 34, 83 A. 2d 24 (1951); Pearson v. Yoder, 39 Okla. 105, 134 P. 421 (1913); State ex rel Sowers v. Olwell, 64 Wash. 2d 828, 394 P. 2d 681 (1964). The purpose of the privilege requires no broader rule. Pre-existing documents obtainable from the client are not appreciably easier to obtain from the attorney after transfer to him. Thus, even absent the attorney-client privilege, clients will not be discouraged from disclosing the documents to the attorney, and their ability to obtain informed legal advice will remain unfettered. It is otherwise if the documents are not obtainable by subpoena duces tecum or summons while in the exclusive possession of the client, for the client will then be reluctant to transfer possession to the lawyer unless the documents are also privileged in the latter's hands. Where the transfer is made for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, the purposes of the attorney-client privilege would be defeated unless the privilege is applicable. "It follows, then, that when the client himself would be privileged from production of the document, either as a party at common law... or as exempt from self-incrimination, the attorney having possession of the document is not bound to produce." 8 Wigmore § 2307, p. 592. Lower courts have so held. Id., § 2307, p. 592 n. 1, and cases there cited; United States v. Judson,322 F.2d 460, 466 (CA9 1963); Colton v. United States, 306 F.2d 633, 639 (CA2 1962). This proposition was accepted by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit below, is asserted by petitioners
[ 425 U.S. Page 405]
in No. 74-18 and respondents in No. 74-611, and was conceded by the Government in its brief and at oral argument. Where the transfer to the attorney is for the purpose of obtaining legal advice, we agree with it.
 Since each taxpayer transferred possession of the documents in question from himself to his attorney, in order to obtain legal assistance in the tax investigations in question, the papers, if unobtainable by summons from the client, are unobtainable by summons directed to the attorney by reason of the attorney-client privilege. We accordingly proceed to the question whether the documents could have been obtained by summons addressed to the taxpayer while the documents were in his possession. The only bar to enforcement of such summons asserted by the parties or the courts below is the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self-incrimination. On this question the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in No. 74-611 is at odds with the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in United States v. Beattie,522 F.2d 267 (1975), cert. pending, Nos. 75-407, 75-700.
 The proposition that the Fifth Amendment prevents compelled production of documents over objection that such production might incriminate stems from Boyd v. United States,116 U.S. 616 (1886). Boyd involved a civil forfeiture proceeding brought by the Government against two partners for fraudulently attempting to import 35 cases of glass without paying the prescribed duty. The partnership had contracted with the Government to furnish the glass needed in the construction of a Government building. The glass specified was foreign glass, it being understood that if part or all of the glass was furnished from the partnership's existing duty-paid inventory,
[ 425 U.S. Page 406]
it could be replaced by duty-free imports. Pursuant to this arrangement, 29 cases of glass were imported by the partnership duty free. The partners then represented that they were entitled to duty-free entry of an additional 35 cases which were soon to arrive. The forfeiture action concerned these 35 cases. The Government's position was that the partnership had replaced all of the glass used in construction of the Government building when it imported the 29 cases. At trial, the Government obtained a court order directing the partners to produce an invoice the partnership had received from the shipper covering the previous 29-case shipment. The invoice was disclosed, offered in evidence, and used, over the Fifth Amendment objection of the partners, to establish that the partners were fraudulently claiming a greater exemption from duty than they were entitled to under the contract. This Court held that the invoice was inadmissible and reversed the judgment in favor of the Government. The Court ruled that the Fourth Amendment applied to court orders in the nature of subpoenas duces tecum in the same manner in which it applies to search warrants, id., at 622; and that the Government may not, consistent with the Fourth Amendment, seize a person's documents or other property as evidence unless it can claim a proprietary interest in the property superior to that of the person from whom the property is obtained. Id., at 623-624. The invoice in question was thus held to have been obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The Court went on to hold that the accused in a criminal case or the defendant in a forfeiture action could not be forced to produce evidentiary items without violating the Fifth Amendment as well as the Fourth. More specifically, the Court declared, "a compulsory production of the private books and papers of the owner of goods sought to be forfeited... is compelling him to be a witness against himself,
[ 425 U.S. Page 407]
within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution." Id., at 634-635. Admitting the partnership invoice into evidence had violated both the Fifth and Fourth Amendments.
 Among its several pronouncements, Boyd was understood to declare that the seizure, under warrant or otherwise, of any purely evidentiary materials violated the Fourth Amendment and that the Fifth Amendment rendered these seized materials inadmissible. Gouled v. United States,255 U.S. 298 (1921); Agnello v. United States, 269 U.S. 20 (1925); United States v. Lefkowitz, 285 U.S. 452 (1932). That rule applied to documents as well as to other evidentiary items - "[t]here is no special sanctity in papers, as distinguished from other forms of property, to render them immune from search and seizure, if only they fall within the scope of the principles of the cases in which other property may be seized...." Gouled v. United States, supra, at 309. Private papers taken from the taxpayer, like other "mere evidence," could not be used against the accused over his Fourth and Fifth Amendment objections.
 Several of Boyd's express or implicit declarations have not stood the test of time. The application of the Fourth Amendment to subpoenas was limited by Hale v. Henkel,201 U.S. 43 (1906), and more recent cases. See, e.g., Oklahoma Press Pub. Co. v. Walling, 327 U.S. 186 (1946). Purely evidentiary (but "non-testimonial") materials, as well as contraband and fruits and instrumentalities of crime, may now be searched for and seized under proper circumstances, Warden v. Hayden,387 U.S. 294 (1967). *fn9 Also, any notion that "testimonial" evidence may never be seized and used in evidence is
[ 425 U.S. Page 408]
inconsistent with Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967); Osborn v. United States, 385 U.S. 323 (1966); and Berger v. New York, 388 U.S. 41 (1967), approving the seizure under appropriate circumstances of conversations of a person suspected of crime. See also Marron v. United States,275 U.S. 192 (1927).
 It is also clear that the Fifth Amendment does not independently proscribe the compelled production of every sort of incriminating evidence but applies only when the accused is compelled to make a testimonial communication that is incriminating. We have, accordingly, declined to extend the protection of the privilege to the giving of blood samples, Schmerber v. California,384 U.S. 757, 763-764 (1966); *fn10 to the giving of handwriting exemplars, Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263, 265-267 (1967); voice exemplars, United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 222-223, (1967); or the donning of a blouse worn by the perpetrator, Holt v. United States, 218 U.S. 245 (1910). Furthermore, despite Boyd, neither a partnership nor the individual partners are shielded from compelled production of partnership records on self-incrimination grounds. Bellis v. United States,417 U.S. 85 (1974). It would appear that under that case the precise claim sustained in Boyd would now be rejected for reasons not there considered.
 The pronouncement in Boyd that a person may not be forced to produce his private papers has nonetheless often appeared as dictum in later opinions of this Court. See, e.g., Wilson v. United States,221 U.S. 361, 377 (1911); Wheeler v. United States, 226 U.S. 478, 489 (1913); United States v. White, 322 U.S. 694, 698-699 (1944);
[ 425 U.S. Page 409]
Davis v. United States, 328 U.S., at 587-588; Schmerber, supra, at 763-764; Couch v. United States, 409 U.S., at 330; Bellis v. United States, supra, at 87. To the extent, however, that the rule against compelling production of private papers rested on the proposition that seizures of or subpoenas for "mere evidence," including documents, violated the Fourth Amendment and therefore also transgressed the Fifth, Gouled v. United States, supra, the foundations for the rule have been washed away. In consequence, the prohibition against forcing the production of private papers has long been a rule searching for a rationale consistent with the proscriptions of the Fifth Amendment against compelling a person to give "testimony" that incriminates him. Accordingly, we turn to the question of what, if any, incriminating testimony within the Fifth Amendment's protection, is compelled by a documentary summons.
 A subpoena served on a taxpayer requiring him to produce an accountant's workpapers in his possession without doubt involves substantial compulsion. But it does not compel oral testimony; nor would it ordinarily compel the taxpayer to restate, repeat, or affirm the truth of the contents of the documents sought. Therefore, the Fifth Amendment would not be violated by the fact alone that the papers on their face might incriminate the taxpayer, for the privilege protects a person only against being incriminated by his own compelled testimonial communications. Schmerber v. California, supra; United States v. Wade, supra; and Gilbert v. California, supra. The accountant's workpapers are not the taxpayer's. They were not prepared by the taxpayer, and they contain no testimonial declarations by him. Furthermore, as far as this record demonstrates, the preparation of all of the papers sought in these cases was wholly voluntary, and they cannot be said to contain compelled
[ 425 U.S. Page 410]
testimonial evidence, either of the taxpayers or of anyone else.*fn11 The taxpayer cannot avoid compliance with the subpoena merely by asserting that the item of evidence which he is required to produce contains incriminating writing, whether his own or that of someone else.
 The act of producing evidence in response to a subpoena nevertheless has communicative aspects of its own, wholly aside from the contents of the papers produced. Compliance with the subpoena tacitly concedes the existence of the papers demanded and their possession or control by the taxpayer. It also would indicate the taxpayer's belief that the papers are those described in the subpoena. Curcio v. United States,354 U.S. 118, 125 (1957). The elements of compulsion are clearly present, but the more difficult issues are whether the tacit averments of the taxpayer are both "testimonial" and "incriminating" for purposes of applying the Fifth Amendment. These questions perhaps do not lend themselves to categorical answers; their resolution may instead depend on the facts and circumstances of particular cases or classes thereof. In light of the records now before us, we are confident that however incriminating the
[ 425 U.S. Page 411]
contents of the accountant's workpapers might be, the act of producing them - the only thing which the taxpayer is compelled to do - would not itself involve testimonial self-incrimination.
 It is doubtful that implicitly admitting the existence and possession of the papers rises to the level of testimony within the protection of the Fifth Amendment. The papers belong to the accountant, were prepared by him, and are the kind usually prepared by an accountant working on the tax returns of his client. Surely the Government is in no way relying on the "truthtelling" of the taxpayer to prove the existence of or his access to the documents. 8 Wigmore § 2264, p. 380. The existence and location of the papers are a foregone conclusion and the taxpayer adds little or nothing to the sum total of the Government's information by conceding that he in fact has the papers. Under these circumstances by enforcement of the summons "no constitutional rights are touched. The question is not of testimony but of surrender." In re Harris,221 U.S. 274, 279 (1911).
 When an accused is required to submit a handwriting exemplar he admits his ability to write and impliedly asserts that the exemplar is his writing. But in common experience, the first would be a near truism and the latter self-evident. In any event, although the exemplar may be incriminating to the accused and although he is compelled to furnish it, his Fifth Amendment privilege is not violated because nothing he has said or done is deemed to be sufficiently testimonial for purposes of the privilege. This Court has also time and again allowed subpoenas against the custodian of corporate documents or those belonging to other collective entities such as unions and partnerships and those of bankrupt businesses over claims that the documents will incriminate the custodian despite the fact that producing the documents tacitly admits their existence and their location in the
[ 425 U.S. Page 412]
hands of their possessor. E.g., Wilson v. United States, 221 U.S. 361 (1911); Dreier v. United States, 221 U.S. 394 (1911); United States v. White, 322 U.S. 694 (1944); Bellis v. United States, 417 U.S. 85 (1974); In re Harris, supra. The existence and possession or control of the subpoenaed documents being no more in issue here than in the above cases, the summons is equally enforceable.
 Moreover, assuming that these aspects of producing the accountant's papers have some minimal testimonial significance, surely it is not illegal to seek accounting help in connection with one's tax returns or for the accountant to prepare workpapers and deliver them to the taxpayer. At this juncture, we are quite unprepared to hold that either the fact of existence of the papers or of their possession by the taxpayer poses any realistic threat of incrimination to the taxpayer.
 As for the possibility that responding to the subpoena would authenticate*fn12 the workpapers, production would
[ 425 U.S. Page 413]
express nothing more than the taxpayer's belief that the papers are those described in the subpoena. The taxpayer would be no more competent to authenticate the accountant's workpapers or reports*fn13 by producing them than he would be to authenticate them if testifying orally. The taxpayer did not prepare the papers and could not vouch for their accuracy. The documents would not be admissible in evidence against the taxpayer without authenticating testimony. Without more, responding to the subpoena in the circumstances before us would not appear to represent a substantial threat of self-incrimination. Moreover, in Wilson v. United States, supra; Dreier v. United States, supra; United States v. White, supra; Bellis v. United States, supra; and In re Harris, supra, the custodian of corporate, union or partnership books or those of a bankrupt business was ordered to respond to a subpoena for the business' books even though doing so involved a "representation that the documents produced are those demanded by the subpoena," Curcio v. United States,354 U.S., at 125. *fn14
[ 425 U.S. Page 414]
Whether the Fifth Amendment would shield the taxpayer from producing his own tax records in his possession is a question not involved here; for the papers demanded here are not his "private papers," see Boyd v. United States,116 U.S., at 634-635. We do hold that compliance with a summons directing the taxpayer to produce the accountant's documents involved in these cases would involve no incriminating testimony within the protection of the Fifth Amendment.
 The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in No. 74-611 is reversed. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in No. 74-18 is affirmed.
 So ordered.
 MR. JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the consideration or disposition of these cases.
 MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN, concurring in the judgment.
 I concur in the judgment. Given the prior access by accountants retained by the taxpayers to the papers involved in these cases and the wholly business rather than personal nature of the papers, I agree that the privilege against compelled self-incrimination did not in either of these cases protect the papers from production in response to the summonses. See Couch v. United States,409 U.S. 322, 335-336 (1973); id., at 337 (BRENNAN, J., concurring). I do not join the Court's opinion, however, because of the portent of much of what is said of a serious crippling of the protection secured by the privilege against compelled production of one's private books and papers. Like today's decision in United States v. Miller, post, p. 435, it is but another step in the denigration of privacy principles settled nearly 100 years ago in Boyd v. United States,116 U.S. 616
[ 425 U.S. Page 415]
(1886). According to the Court, "[w]hether the Fifth Amendment would shield the taxpayer from producing his own tax records in his possession is a question not involved here; for the papers demanded here are not his 'private papers.'" Ante, at 414. This implication that the privilege might not protect against compelled production of tax records that are his "private papers" is so contrary to settled constitutional jurisprudence that this and other like implications throughout the opinion*fn1 prompt me to conjecture that once again the Court is laying the groundwork for future decisions that will tell us that the question here formally reserved was actually answered against the availability of the privilege. Semble, Hudgens v. NLRB,424 U.S. 507 (1976). It is therefore appropriate to recall that history and this Court have construed the constitutional privilege to safeguard against governmental intrusions of personal privacy to compel either self-incriminating oral statements or the production of self-incriminating evidence recorded in one's private books and papers. Although as phrased in the Fifth Amendment - "nor shall [any person] be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself" - the privilege makes no express reference, as does the Fourth Amendment, to "papers, and effects," private papers have long been held to have the protection of the privilege, designed as it is "to maintain inviolate large areas of personal privacy." Feldman v. United States,322 U.S. 487, 490 (1944).
[ 425 U.S. Page 416]
 Expressions are legion in opinions of this Court that the protection of personal privacy is a central purpose of the privilege against compelled self-incrimination. "[I]t is the invasion of [a person's] indefeasible right of personal security, personal liberty and private property" "that constitutes the essence of the offence" that violates the privilege. Boyd v. United States, supra, at 630. The privilege reflects "our respect for the inviolability of the human personality and of the right of each individual 'to a private enclave where he may lead a private life.'" Murphy v. Waterfront Comm'n,378 U.S. 52, 55 (1964). "It respects a private inner sanctum of individual feeling and thought and proscribes state intrusion to extract self-condemnation." Couch v. United States, supra, at 327. See also Tehan v. United States ex rel. Shott,382 U.S. 406, 416 (1966); Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 460, (1966). "The Fifth Amendment in its Self-Incrimination Clause enables the citizen to create a zone of privacy which government may not force him to surrender to his detriment." Griswold v. Connecticut,381 U.S. 479, 484 (1965). See also Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347, 350 n. 5 (1967).
 The Court pays lip service to this bedrock premise of privacy in the statement that "[w]ithin the limits imposed by the language of the Fifth Amendment, which we necessarily observe, the privilege truly serves privacy interests," ante, at 399. But this only makes explicit what elsewhere highlights the opinion, namely, the view that protection of personal privacy is merely a by product and not, as our precedents and history teach, a factor controlling in part the determination of the scope of the privilege. This cart-before-the-horse approach is fundamentally at odds with the settled principle that the scope of the privilege is not constrained by the limits of the
[ 425 U.S. Page 417]
wording of the Fifth Amendment but has the reach necessary to protect the cherished value of privacy which it safeguards. See Schmerber v. California,384 U.S. 757, 761-762, n. 6 (1966). The "Court has always construed provisions of the Constitution having regard to the principles upon which it was established. The direct operation or literal meaning of the words used do not measure the purpose or scope of its provisions...." United States v. Lefkowitz,285 U.S. 452, 467 (1932). "It has been repeatedly decided that [the Fifth Amendment] should receive a liberal construction, so as to prevent stealthy encroachment upon or 'gradual depreciation' of the rights secured by [it], by imperceptible practice of courts or by well-intentioned but mistakenly over-zealous executive officers." Gouled v. United States,255 U.S. 298, 304 (1921). See Maness v. Meyers, 419 U.S. 449, 461 (1975). History and principle, not the mechanical application of its wording, have been the life of the Amendment. *fn2
 That the privilege does not protect against the production of private information where there is no compulsion, or where immunity is granted, or where there is no threat of incrimination in nowise supports the Court's argument demeaning the privilege's protection of privacy. The unavailability of the privilege in those cases only evidences that, as is the case with the First and Fourth Amendments, the protection of privacy afforded by the privilege is not absolute. The critical question then is the definition of the scope of privacy that is sheltered by the privilege.
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History and principle teach that the privacy protected by the Fifth Amendment extends not just to the individual's immediate declarations, oral or written, but also to his testimonial materials in the form of books and papers.*fn3 "The right was originally a 'right of silence'... only in the sense that legal process could not force incriminating statements from the defendant's own lips. Beginning in the early eighteenth century the English courts widened that right to include protection against the necessity of producing books and documents that might tend to incriminate the accused.... Lord Mansfield summed up the law by declaring that the defendant, in a criminal case, could not be compelled to produce any incriminating documentary evidence 'though he should hold it in his hands in Court.'" L. Levy, Origins of the Fifth Amendment 390 (1968).*fn4 Thus, in recognizing
[ 425 U.S. Page 419]
the privilege's protection of private books and papers, Boyd v. United States, 116 U.S., at 633, 634-635, was faithful to this historical conception of the privilege. Boyd was reaffirmed in this respect in Ballmann v. Fagin,200 U.S. 186 (1906), which held that an individual could not be compelled to produce a personal cashbook containing incriminating evidence. Schmerber v. California,384 U.S., at 761, most recently expressly held "that the privilege protects an accused... from being compelled to testify against himself, or otherwise provide the State with evidence of a testimonial or communicative nature...." (Emphasis supplied.) Indeed, Boyd's holding has often been reiterated without question. E.g., Bellis v. United States,417 U.S. 85, 87 (1974); United States v. Calandra, 414 U.S. 338, 346 (1974); Couch v. United States, 409 U.S. 322 (1973); United States v. Wade, 388 U.S. 218, 221 (1967); Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263, 266 (1967); Davis v. United States, 328 U.S. 582, 587-588 (1946); United States v. White, 322 U.S. 694, 698-699 (1944); Wheeler v. United States, 226 U.S. 478, 489 (1913); Wilson v. United States, 221 U.S. 361, 375 (1911); ICC v. Baird, 194 U.S. 25, 45 (1904). It may therefore be emphatically stated that until today, there was no room to doubt that it is the Fifth Amendment's "historic function [to protect an individual] from compulsory incrimination through his
[ 425 U.S. Page 420]
own testimony or personal records." United States v. White, supra, at 701 (emphasis supplied).
 The common-law and constitutional extension of the privilege to testimonial materials, such as books and papers, was inevitable. An individual's books and papers are generally little more than an extension of his person. They reveal no less than he could reveal upon being questioned directly. Many of the matters within an individual's knowledge may as easily be retained within his head as set down on a scrap of paper. I perceive no principle which does not permit compelling one to disclose the contents of one's mind but does permit compelling the disclosure of the contents of that scrap of paper by compelling its production. Under a contrary view, the constitutional protection would turn on fortuity, and persons would, at their peril, record their thoughts and the events of their lives. The ability to think private thoughts, facilitated as it is by pen and paper, and the ability to preserve intimate memories would be curtailed through fear that those thoughts or the events of those memories would become the subjects of criminal sanctions however invalidity imposed. Indeed, it was the very reality of those fears that helped provide the historical impetus for the privilege. See Boyd v. United States, supra, at 631-632; E. Griswold, The Fifth Amendment Today 8-9 (1955); 8 J. Wigmore, Evidence § 2250, pp. 277-281 (McNaughton rev. 1961); id., § 2251, pp. 313-314; McKay, Self-Incrimination and the New Privacy, 1967 Supreme Court Review 193, 212.*fn5
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The Court's treatment of the privilege falls far short of giving it the scope required by history and our precedents.*fn6 It is, of course, true "that the Fifth Amendment
[ 425 U.S. Page 422]
protects against 'compelled self-incrimination, not [the disclosure of] private information,'" ante, at 401, but it is also true that governmental compulsion to produce private information that might incriminate violates the protection of the privilege. Similarly, although it is necessary that the papers "contain no testimonial declarations by [the taxpayer]" in order for the privilege not to operate as a bar to production, ante, at 409, it does not follow
[ 425 U.S. Page 423]
that papers are not "testimonial" and thus producible because they contain no declarations. And while it may be that the unavailability of the privilege depends on a showing that "the preparation of all of the papers sought in these cases was wholly voluntary," ibid., again it does not follow that the protection is necessarily unavailable if the papers were prepared voluntarily, for it is the compelled production of testimonial evidence, not just the compelled creation of such evidence, against which the privilege protects.
 Though recognizing that a subpoena served on a taxpayer involves substantial compulsion, the Court concludes that since the subpoena does not compel oral testimony or require the taxpayer to restate, repeat, or affirm the truth of the contents of the documents sought, compelled production of the documents by the taxpayer would not violate the privilege, even though the documents might incriminate the taxpayer. Ante, at 409. This analysis is patently incomplete: the threshold inquiry is whether the taxpayer is compelled to produce incriminating papers. That inquiry is not answered in favor of production merely because the subpoena requires neither oral testimony from nor affirmation of the papers' contents by the taxpayer. To be sure, the Court correctly observes that "[t]he taxpayer cannot avoid compliance with the subpoena merely by asserting that the item of evidence which he is required to produce contains incriminating writing, whether his own or that of someone else." Ante, at 410 (emphasis supplied). For it is not enough that the production of a writing, or books and papers, is compelled. Unless those materials are such as to come within the zone of privacy recognized by the Amendment, the privilege against compulsory self-incrimination does not protect against their production.
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We are not without guideposts for determining what books, papers, and writings come within the zone of privacy recognized by the Amendment. In Wilson v. United States,221 U.S. 361 (1911), for example, the Court held that the Fifth Amendment did not protect against the subpoena of corporate records in the possession and control of the president of a corporation, even though the records might have incriminated him. Though the evidence was testimonial, though its production was compelled, and though it would have incriminated the party producing it, the Fifth Amendment was no bar. The Court recognized that the Amendment "[u]ndoubtedly... protected [the president] against the compulsory production of his private books and papers," id., at 377, but with respect to corporate records, the Court held: S
 "[T]hey are of a character which subjects them to the scrutiny demanded.... This was clearly implied in the Boyd Case where the fact that the papers involved were the private papers of the claimant was constantly emphasized. Thus, in the case of public records and official documents, made or kept in the administration of public office, the fact of actual possession or of lawful custody would not justify the officer in resisting inspection, even though the record was made by himself and would supply the evidence of his criminal dereliction." Id., at 380 (emphasis in original).I
 Couch v. United States expressly held that the Fifth Amendment protected against the compelled production of testimonial evidence only if the individual resisting production had a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to the evidence.409 U.S., at 336. Couch relied on Perlman v. United States, 247 U.S. 7 (1918),
[ 425 U.S. Page 425]
where the Court permitted the use against the defendant of documentary evidence belonging to him because "there was a voluntary exposition of the articles" rather than "an invasion of the defendant's privacy." Id., at 14. Under Couch, therefore, one criterion is whether or not the information sought to be produced has been disclosed to or was within the knowledge of a third party.409 U.S., at 332-333. That is to say, one relevant consideration is the degree to which the paper holder has sought to keep private the contents of the papers he desires not to produce.
 Most recently, Bellis v. United States, 417 U.S. 85 (1974), followed the approach taken in Wilson. Bellis held that the partner of a small law firm could not invoke the privilege against self-incrimination to justify his refusal to comply with a subpoena requiring production of the partnership's financial records. Bellis stated: "It has long been established... that the Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination protects an individual from compelled production of his personal papers and effects as well as compelled oral testimony.... The privilege applies to the business records of the sole proprietor or sole practitioner as well as to personal documents containing more intimate information about the individual's private life."417 U.S., at 87-88. Bellis also recognized that the Court's "decisions holding the privilege inapplicable to the records of a collective entity also reflect... the protection of an individual's right to a 'private enclave where he may lead a private life.'... Protection of individual privacy was the major theme running through the Court's decision in Boyd... and it was on this basis that the Court in Wilson distinguished the corporate records involved in that case from the private papers at issue in Boyd." Id., at 91-92. "[C]orporate
[ 425 U.S. Page 426]
records do not contain the requisite element of privacy or confidentiality essential for the privilege to attach." Id., at 92. Bellis concluded that the same considerations which precluded reliance upon the privilege with respect to corporate records also precluded reliance upon it with respect to partnership records in the circumstances of that case.*fn7
 A precise cataloguing of private papers within the ambit of the privacy protected by the privilege is probably impossible. Some papers, however, do lend themselves to classification. See generally Comment, The Search and Seizure of Private Papers: Fourth and Fifth Amendment Considerations, 6 Loyola (LA) L. Rev. 274, 300-303 (1973). Production of documentary materials created or authenticated by a State or the Federal Government, such as automobile registrations or property deeds, would seem ordinarily to fall outside the protection of the privilege. They hardly reflect an extension of the person.
 Economic and business records may present difficulty in particular cases. The records of business entities generally fall without the scope of the privilege. But, as noted, the Court has recognized that the privilege extends to the business records of the sole proprietor or practitioner. Such records are at least an extension of an aspect of a person's activities, though concededly
[ 425 U.S. Page 427]
not the more intimate aspects of one's life. Where the privilege would have protected one's mental notes of his business affairs in a less complicated day and age, it would seem that that protection should not fall away because the complexities of another time compel one to keep business records. Cf. Olmstead v. United States,277 U.S. 438, 474 (1928) (Brandeis, J., dissenting). Nonbusiness economic records in the possession of an individual, such as canceled checks or tax records, would also seem to be protected. They may provide clear insights into a person's total lifestyle. They are, however, like business records and the papers involved in these cases, frequently, though not always, disclosed to other parties; and disclosure, in proper cases, may foreclose reliance upon the privilege. Personal letters constitute an integral aspect of a person's private enclave. And while letters, being necessarily interpersonal, are not wholly private, their peculiarly private nature and the generally narrow extent of their disclosure would seem to render them within the scope of the privilege. Papers in the nature of a personal diary are a fortiori protected under the privilege.
 The Court's treatment in the instant cases of the question whether the evidence involved here is within the protection of the privilege is, with all respect, most inadequate. The gaping hole is in the omission of any reference to the taxpayer's privacy interests and to whether the subpoenas impermissibly invade those interests. The observations that the "accountant's workpapers are not the taxpayer's" and "were not prepared by the taxpayer," ante, at 409, touch on matters relevant to the taxpayer's expectation of privacy, but do not of themselves determine the availability of the privilege. Wilson v. United States,221 U.S., at 378, stated: "[T]he mere fact that
[ 425 U.S. Page 428]
the appellant himself wrote, or signed, the [documents], neither conditioned nor enlarged his privilege. Where one's private documents would tend to incriminate him, the privilege exists although they were actually written by another person."*fn8 Thus, although "[t]he fact that the documents may have been written by the person asserting the privilege is insufficient to trigger the privilege," ante, at 410 n. 11, and "the fact that it was written by him is not controlling...," ibid., this is not to say that the privilege is available only as to documents written by him. For the reasons I have stated at the outset, however, I do not believe that the evidence involved in these cases falls within the scope of privacy protected by the Fifth Amendment.
 I also question the Court's treatment of the question whether the act of producing evidence is "testimonial." I agree that the act of production implicitly admits the existence of the evidence requested and possession or control of that evidence by the party producing it. It also implicitly authenticates the evidence as that identified in the order to compel. I disagree, however, that implicit admission of the existence and possession or control of the papers in this case is not "testimonial" merely because the Government could readily have otherwise proved existence and possession or control in these cases.
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I know of no Fifth Amendment principle which makes the testimonial nature of evidence and, therefore, one's protection against incriminating himself, turn on the strength of the Government's case against him.
 Nor do I consider the taxpayers' implicit authentication an insubstantial threat of self-incrimination. Actually, authentication of the papers as those described in the subpoenas establishes the papers as the taxpayers', thereby supplying an incriminatory link in the chain of evidence against them. It is not the less so because the taxpayers' accountants may also provide the link, since the protection against self-incrimination cannot, I repeat, turn on the strength of the Government's case.
 This Court's treatment of handwriting exemplars is not supportive of its position. See Gilbert v. California, 388 U.S. 263 (1967). The Court has only recognized that "[a] mere handwriting exemplar..., like the voice or body itself, is an identifying physical characteristic outside its protection." Id., at 266-267. It is because handwriting exemplars are viewed as strictly non-testimonial, not because they are insufficiently testimonial, that the Fifth Amendment does not protect against their compelled production. Also not supportive of the Court's position is the principle that the custodian of documents of a collective entity is not protected from the act of producing those documents. Nothing in the language of those cases, either expressly or impliedly, indicates that the act of production with respect to the records of business entities is insufficiently testimonial for purposes of the Fifth Amendment. At most, those issues, though considered, were disposed of on the ground, not that production was insufficiently testimonial, but that one in control of the records of an artificial organization
[ 425 U.S. Page 430]
undertakes an obligation with respect to those records foreclosing any exercise of his privilege.*fn9
 MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, concurring in the judgment.
 Today the Court adopts a wholly new approach for deciding when the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination can be asserted to bar production of documentary evidence.*fn1a This approach has, in various
[ 425 U.S. Page 431]
forms, been discussed by commentators for some time; nonetheless, as I noted a few years ago, the theory "has an odd sound to it." Couch v. United States,409 U.S. 322, 348 (1973) (dissenting). The Fifth Amendment basis for resisting production of a document pursuant to subpoena, the Court tells us today, lies not in the document's contents, as we previously have suggested, but in the tacit verification inherent in the act of production itself that the document exists, is in the possession of the producer, and is the one sought by the subpoena.
 This technical and somewhat esoteric focus on the testimonial elements of production rather than on the content of the evidence the investigator seeks is, as MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN demonstrates, contrary to the history and traditions of the privilege against self-incrimination both in this country and in England, where the privilege originated. A long line of precedents in this Court, whose rationales if not holdings are overturned by the Court today, support the notion that "any forcible and compulsory extortion of a man's... private papers to be used as evidence to convict him of crime" compels him to be a witness against himself within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. Boyd v. United States,116 U.S. 616, 630 (1886). See also Bellis v. United States, 417 U.S. 85, 87 (1974); Couch v. United States, supra, at 330; Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757, 763-764 (1966); Davis v. United States, 328 U.S. 582, 587-588 (1946); United States v. White, 322 U.S. 694, 698-699 (1944); Wheeler v. United States, 226 U.S. 478, 489 (1913); Wilson v. United States, 221 U.S. 361, 377 (1911).
 However analytically imprecise these cases may be, they represent a deeply held belief on the part of the Members of this Court throughout its history that there
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are certain documents no person ought to be compelled to produce at the Government's request. While I welcome the Court's attempt to provide a rationale for this longstanding rule, it is incumbent upon the Court, I believe, to fashion its theory so as to protect those documents that have always stood at the core of the Court's concern. Thus, I would have preferred it had the Court found some room in its theory for recognition of the import of the contents of the documents themselves. See Couch v. United States, supra, at 350 (MARSHALL, J., dissenting).
 Nonetheless, I am hopeful that the Court's new theory, properly understood and applied, will provide substantially the same protection as our prior focus on the contents of the documents. The Court recognizes, as others have argued, that the act of production can verify the authenticity of the documents produced. See, e.g., United States v. Beattie,522 F.2d 267 (CA2 1975), cert. pending, Nos. 75-407, 75-700. But the promise of the Court's theory lies in its innovative discernment that production may also verify the documents' very existence and present possession by the producer. This expanded recognition of the kinds of testimony inherent in production not only rationalizes the cases, but seems to me to afford almost complete protection against compulsory production of our most private papers.
 Thus, the Court's rationale provides a persuasive basis for distinguishing between the corporate-document cases and those involving the papers of private citizens. Since the existence of corporate record books is seldom in doubt, the verification of their existence, inherent in their production, may fairly be termed not testimonial at all. On the other hand, there is little reason to assume the present existence and possession of most private papers, and certainly not those MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN places at the top of his list of documents that the privilege should protect. See ante, at 426-427 (concurring in judgment).
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Indeed, there would appear to be a precise inverse relationship between the private nature of the document and the permissibility of assuming its existence. Therefore, under the Court's theory, the admission through production that one's diary, letters, prior tax returns, personally maintained financial records, or canceled checks exist would ordinarily provide substantial testimony. The incriminating nature of such an admission is clear, for while it may not be criminal to keep a diary, or write letters or checks, the admission that one does and that those documents are still available may quickly - or simultaneously - lead to incriminating evidence. If there is a "real danger" of such a result, that is enough under our cases to make such testimony subject to the claim of privilege. See Rogers v. United States,340 U.S. 367 (1951); Brown v. Walker, 161 U.S. 591 (1896); Counselman v. Hitchcock, 142 U.S. 547 (1892). Thus, in practice, the Court's approach should still focus upon the private nature of the papers subpoenaed and protect those about which Boyd and its progeny were most concerned.
 The Court's theory will also limit the prosecution's ability to use documents secured through a grant of immunity. If authentication that the document produced is the document demanded were the only testimony inherent in production, immunity would be a useful tool for obtaining written evidence. So long as a document obtained under an immunity grant could be authenticated through other sources, as would often be possible, reliance on the immunized testimony - the authentication - and its fruits would not be necessary, and the document could be introduced. The Court's recognition that the act of production also involves testimony about the existence and possession of the subpoenaed documents mandates a different result. Under the Court's theory, if the document is to be obtained the
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immunity grant must extend to the testimony that the document is presently in existence. Such a grant will effectively shield the contents of the document, for the contents are a direct fruit of the immunized testimony - that the document exists - and cannot usually be obtained without reliance on that testimony.*fn2a Accordingly, the Court's theory offers substantially the same protection against procurement of documents under grant of immunity that our prior cases afford.
 In short, while the Court sacrifices our pragmatic, if somewhat ad hoc, content analysis for what might seem an unduly technical focus on the act of production itself, I am far less pessimistic than MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN that this new approach signals the end of Fifth Amendment protection for documents we have long held to be <br/><br/>(Message over 64 KB, truncated)